How do we combine love and truth in the same-sex marriage debate?

The Houses of Parliament (PA)

My colleague Stuart Reid has written a thought-provoking Notebook column in the Herald for May 31, discussing the likely social consequences of the subject to be debated and voted on in the House of Lords today and tomorrow: the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

I cannot improve on Stuart’s conclusion so will quote it here: “A homosexual who wishes to be a faithful Catholic must resist his deepest longings. Very few of us could cope with such a burden. That’s why homosexuals deserve unconditional love, and the best way we can provide that is by believing, acting and speaking as orthodox Catholics.”

I suppose one could quote St Augustine here, from the first page of his Confessions, that “Our hearts are made for Thee, O Lord, and they shall have no rest until they rest in Thee” – which implies that our deepest longings must be for Christ, even if we don’t know it. But I know what Stuart means in the context in which he writes, which is: how does a person cope with enforced celibacy – celibacy which is not of his/her choosing?

In answer to this, I have just come across a terrific little booklet from the same CTS bundle that William Oddie writes about so eloquently in his own blog. I had intended to write a blog praising the Catholic Truth Society but William has beaten me to it; so I will confine myself to mentioning this booklet – Christian Love by John Edwards SJ – which he did not mention in his blog list of recent CTS publications.

Fr Edwards, who died last year, was a priest beloved of many people. I feel a stab of envy of those who were his friends and wish I had been among their number. But I can at least help to keep his memory alive by mentioning this booklet, first published in 1989 but still entirely relevant to our days. Indeed, how could the subject of Christian Love ever become outdated or irrelevant?

Subtitled, “Sexuality, Marriage and the Single Life”, Fr Edwards’s booklet raises the question, inter alia, of homosexuality, in implicit answer to the point made by Stuart Reid. After explaining why the Church has always taught that sexual expression must be confined to marriage, and that celibacy is thus required of all unmarried people, he acknowledges that this is “hard for homosexuals to hear”. Then he adds: “But if they can accept God’s teaching, as the Church insists it is, a wonder opens up. They are obviously being asked by God, chosen indeed by God, to follow what the person with the vow of chastity has been invited to: lifelong, complete chastity… Now that is hard (ask any Religious); but let no-one says it is not “promotion” in God’s Kingdom. But surely the Religious chose it, the homosexual had it imposed? I wonder… was not the chaste Religious chosen by God to it? … If God asks a particular fulfilment of his will he must will to give the grace – that is, he must at least will the subject to pray (to live therefore) in a way that will inevitably open him or her to the necessary grace.”

Fr Edwards concludes by saying that “the homosexual then must consider himself chosen by God to the austere, lovely, sacrificial, endlessly fulfilling and apostolic love of perfect chastity. What a tragedy if he or she were talked out of accepting that privilege!”

If we want to believe, act and speak as orthodox Catholics on this subject, as Stuart writes above, I suggest that Fr Edwards’s CTS booklet is the best place to start. It won’t get an airing in the House of Lords among the laity or the Anglican bishops today, but for us Catholics it is the sure way to combine love with truth.